30 October 2003


There's a nice article here about the process of publishing scientific articles. (Those with Real Player can listen to the original radio piece by clicking here.)

It's a topic that I've talked about from time to time in this journal. I've definitely had some of the experiences that this person is talking about. And I particularly liked the poem near the end, which made me laugh out loud.

Actually, I should be talking about it more, because I should be submitting more journal articles.

28 October 2003

Can't talk now!

Busy writing lecture that needs finishing before tomorrow's class.

Have also been having fun dealing with application for the four jobs that are open in our Department. Review begins next week, so a lot of stuff is coming in.

25 October 2003

This sucks.

My new computer, which I thought was going to solve problems, has turned into a problem creator in a very emphatic manner. Why else does one blog at 1:17 a.m. on a Friday night / Saturday morning?

First, the hard drive was completely [rude word deleted] and needed to be replaced. Tonight, something has gone wonky with the video card (I think). It's definitely not right, whatever it is. Back to tech support...

21 October 2003

Fast times at SPI

South Padre Island, that is. Spent most of the day out there collecting animals, after I failed to gather any when I was out there for the weekend enjoying Sandcastle Days.

Meanwhile, the ice machine is back! Repaired in a record 8 days! I wonder who got leaned on, and how hard, to make a repair that fast this time. Of course, there's still the niggling question of how long it'll keep ticking. It's like some weird game of nerves -- man versus ice machine.

17 October 2003

May we recommend...

Here's an article that merits a trip to the library.

The pioneering team of Gert Holstege, Janniko R. Georgiadis, Anne M. J. Paans, Linda C. Meiners, Ferdinand H. C. E. van der Graaf, and A. A. T. Simone Reinders have just published their research findings, "Brain Activation during Human Male Ejaculation" in the most recent issue of the Journal of Neuroscience (Volume 23, pages 9185-9193).

Their summary reads in part, "Brain mechanisms that control human sexual behavior in general, and ejaculation in particular, are poorly understood." (Ain't that the truth.)

I see great opportunities here to do a follow-up study on females.

Finagle's Law

I am not the first to note that life is unfair.

I worked at home yesterday, because I was expecting a new computer to arrive at home. My S.O. was out that day, so she wasn't around the apartment to make sure it was delivered, so I stayed home. I waited and watched... but nothing came until 6:42 pm. So I had stayed away from work all day for nothing, really. While the day wasn't completely a waste, it wasn't the most productive day I'd ever had.

Anyway, the computer finally arrives. Boo-yah! I'm psyched. I take my 4.5 year old laptop off the desk and plug the new machine in, turn it on... and am treated with the most gawdawful sound I have ever heard a computer make. (And I've owned many computers.) Two long whines, followed by a "put your teeth on edge" screech. A message comes up saying, "Hard drive not found." Bad sign.

I phoned technical service. After several back-and-forth diagnostic tests, the fellow I'm dealing with comes to the conclusion, "I think your hard drive's broken." Not exactly surprising news there. I'm now waiting arrival of a shipment of a new hard drive from the computer company.


Five days without ice. Round 2. The ice machine has been taken away for repair again.


Oh, the meaning of this entry's title? Click here.

13 October 2003

Normalcy reasserts itself

The ice machine lasted nine days.

Maybe eight.

It was working Friday afternoon. It was busted this Monday morning.


This is HESTEC week here at UTPA. All the classes in the science building were cancelled, so I spent the morning in a symposium. The first, on mathematics, was quite good, describing a system for choosing start lanes in BMX racing. The problem was that in BMX racing, some lanes are better than others, and the old system allowed a contestant a chance of getting the worst lane repeatedly, pretty much killing your chance of winning.

Second talk was on nanotechnology and how organic chemistry might be used to make very, very small computer chips...

The third talk was the worst of the lot. It described remote sensing, primarily satellite imaging. It was a bad talk because there were no actual ideas. It was more a grocery list of satellites that provide remote data. And the slides had way, way too much text on them.

The final talk really picked up, though. This was from Jeffrey Glassberg, who is one of the creators of DNA fingerprinting and the current President (founder, too, I think) of the North American Butterfly Association. Lots of great pictures. He made the very interesting point that in places like the lower Rio Grande Valley, which is something like 90% Hispanic, the local membership in wildlife organizations, like the butterfly organization, or birding organizations, is almost the opposite of the local demographics! About 90% of local members are not Hispanic. Why that should be so is an interesting and difficult question. Is it just that the tradition of natural history is really one that was strong in England, but less so in Spain, and has really carried through Anglo-Saxon culture?

08 October 2003

Life in the graveyard

Maybe I'm just a zombie.

Had my attention drawn to a couple of interesting articles (here and here) on the (short) life of "blogs" like this one. Interestingly, most are not like this one, because the majority never get a second entry! I feel somewhat proud in having kept this journal more or less up to date for almost a year and a half now. I've probably hit the survey's criteria for "abandonment" once or twice, though.

Otherwise how are things? I'm spending a lot of time trying to order stuff for my Honours students.

Got a letter of intent in to the Whitehall Foundation in on time, and received a confirmation from them.

The applications for the many jobs our department is hiring for are starting to trickle in. Hopefully, the trickle will turn to a river after our ad comes out in Science magazine this Friday (fingers crossed).

Also spent part of the morning trying to set up what classes I would teach next semester, finally confirming that I would be able to "reactivate" an old graduate class that hasn't been taught in some time.

It's five ice machine breakdown-free days so far, and counting. When we hit a month of continuous service, I'll be very happy.

04 October 2003

South Texas freezes over!

Incredibly, our ice machine is back and working!

It took 40 days to get it repaired, which is probably a record for repair in the last year. Of course, it's still about four times longer than it ought to be.

I will be taking down my "When will the ice machine be fixed?" count-up calendars, and replacing them with something more akin to the calendars they have in factories. You know, that say "23 accident free days." This one will say something like, "23 breakdown free days."

03 October 2003

How bad can it get?

Bad. Warning: this article on the worst jobs in science is not for those who has, as they might have said in Victorian England, "delicate sensibilities."

02 October 2003

Tomorrow's Friday! Already?!?

Where has this week gone?

I swear I'm not a stress junkie, but I always have problems reorienting myself when big projects come to a close, and I have to start new projects. Work sort of eased up on me like that last weekend; I was even able to clean out a lot of stuff in my office for the first time... well, since I got there two years ago. Literally! I threw out stuff that had been sitting in a pile for two years.

But it's been a weird week; I just haven't managed to make headway on anything for me. Today, for instance, I spent almost the entire day in meeting, after meeting, after meeting. The first meeting was the most fun, in a way. The University of Texas system has a consulting group (the "WAG" -- the "Washington Advisory Group") going around to 8 of the universities getting input on how to strengthen research.

Yes, I ranted about how we can't get an ice machine fixed. Oh, I think we're up to day 39 with no ice!

After that came a curriculum committee meeting, where I tried to pitch a new lab-based neurobiology class.

Finally, a meeting with several people in computer science who are looking for computational problems to apply their expertise to. Not sure I was able to give them anything they can sink their teeth into yet.

Hope to get refocused on my research projects over the weekend so I can crack in on them Monday.